Friday, December 7, 2012


Where did the science fiction genre come from? Well the 1927 Metropolis film is a stylized and visually stunning silent film set in a dystopian future. It is because of director Fritz Lang's German masterpiece that brought the life to my favorite genre of science fiction. While searching YouTube, I noticed that there were many different versions on the Metropolis films. However, I did find a video that claimed they had as much of the original, including the original music, intact. 

The futuristic city is pictured as an industrial world with skyscrapers and bridges and appears to be divided or stratified into an upper, elite, privileged class of powerful industrialists and a subterranean, oppressed worker force. This directly correlates with what is happening in the time this film is being created. At the time, the Industrial Revolution was in its prime, the economy was falling to the rise of fascism in a pre-Hitler Germany and the rise of the American labor movement and unions during the 1920s due to oppressive working conditions. It also reflects the ongoing struggle between light and dark, good and evil, like in my favorite films of science fiction.

Additionally, Lang can be considered a profit of and the creator of science fiction. His vision is very impressive, and stands out as its own master piece next films that would later be inspired by his film. For example, Blade Runner is strikingly similar to the world and problems that Lang envisioned in his film. However, some of the most renowned players of science fiction did not care for Lang’s film. For example, while researching Metropolis, I stumbled onto a review by H.G. Wells himself. Throughout his review, he exhibits his distaste for “silliness” of the film. He also goes on to elaborate on how this film may have been copied from his own vision “When The Sleeper Wakes.” However, if you like the movie or not it has become more common for the Metropolis to be more easily admired than enjoyed.

Chuck Roberts-Year of China

            Chuck Roberts is a former CNN news anchor and has had the opportunity to teach media classes in China. Learning about his experiences was entertaining. It is interesting to find out all the differences another country has compared to our own. His students were not English speaking and he had to have a mandarin translator to relay the information he was teaching. This meant that he would have to speak a sentence, pause, wait for the translator to repeat the message, and then he could continue on with his lesson. That is something you would not find in America very often. That would be a lot of work and dedication to sit through a class with a professor you did not even have a common language with. Sadly, most American students would not be willing to go this extra mile and would not experience classes like this. Another thing I found interesting was the Chinese perception of Americans. He shared with us that Americans are seen as almost celebrities over there. They are not accustomed to seeing blonde haired people and will even take pictures with them if they come across them. This would be very odd for us to do since we are so used to seeing many differences in each person all over the county. As he described the way meals went in China, it was also a very big difference. While we may all sit around the dinner table and pass around food to each other, it would almost always be just enough food with hardly any leftovers. The way he was describing it was that there was obviously more food prepared and set out in front of them than there were people to eat it. Overall I really enjoyed Chuck Robert’s presentation. It was clear that he enjoyed what he was doing and loved being over there. He is even still in contact with one of his students over there. They will email him for advice on their works and even though they share no common language, it is still possible for them to communicate.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chinese Cinema

“I would rather drift by your side than enter heaven without you. Because of your love, I will never be a lonely spirit.” This beautiful line would have never been known to me until I watched the film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It has been very invigorating year at my University; full of beautiful art and culture of China. Personally, I have had a very limited familiarity with Chinese cinema and only now getting the chance experience them. As a result, in this blog I will share my thoughts on Chinese cinematic film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

                As my first choice of choosing a Chinese film, I found the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to be one of my favorites. Although the film was an American-Chinese/Taiwanese co-production, I felt that the film really represented a great example of Chinese cinema.  While watching the film, I found the amount of passion the actors put forth into the film to be very intriguing. In this sense, the film gave off a more realistic feel which allowed me to immerse myself in their world.  I personally found the martial arts sequences to some of best cinematic shots I have ever seen. Back in the 90’s, I fell in love with the Matrix films because of it immense fighting scenes and in which the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon film matched almost completely. While digging up some history on the film, I found that the Matrix films received much of its influence from the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and would be used by other films to come.

                To add to the sense of realism is the amount of stunning cinematography shot throughout the film. The film was not afraid to show off many wide shots to capture the scenery that surrounded the actors. They also used exceptionally well place medium shots and close ups that allows the audience to see the dedication the actors had in the film. Furthermore, the cinematography of the fight scenes that put you on the edge of a sword all the way to the top of trees is truly stunning.  The amazing fight scene between Ziyi Zhang and Michelle Yeoh is probably the best example I could find that shows a variety of cinematography at its best. This clip shows a fight scene that virtually seamless of editing or cuts that would have taken place within the production.

                The cinematography maybe stunning, but it would be very bland if it did not capture mise-en-scene that went along with the film. These are the elements that make up land scape of the film in which the director did very well in adding. During the course of the film, our actors are surrounded by Chinese culture and architecture that it seems as if this film was just glimpsing the past history of China. Not only did the scenery match the time period, but the clothing that the actors wore was head to toe flawless.  To complete this feeling of realism, the actors would also speak in their own vernacular which matched the language during that time period. Most films like this, especially being partially an American produced film, usually would have these actors speak a broken English language simply for the ease of the audience.

In summary, I am very thankful for the encouragement to study Chinese cinema and how it all got started. Although I am starting off late, I have already been amazed by the beautiful film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Through the elements of mise-en-scene, and cinematography it is no wonder why Crouching Tiger continues to be hailed as one of the greatest and most influential foreign language films in the United States.